Paris Saint-Germain

Monopoly money fuels a decade of Ligue 1 domination

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Champions four seasons running until 2016, title-winners again in 2018 and 2019, Paris Saint-Germain have changed the profile of the French game forever. Before the arrival of the Qatar Investment Authority in 2011, PSG not only hadn’t won a title since 1994 – La Ligue they competed in was very much the fifth of the Big Five, way behind Spain, Germany, England and Italy.

Back in 1970, Paris had no flagship team at all. Local football lovers donated funds for a club to be formed by joining forces with Saint-Germain-en-Laye, who had just won promotion to the second division, at the start of the 1970-71 season.

Paris Saint-Germain won promotion to the top flight in their first season, just as the Parc des Princes was rebuilt. After French victory at Euro 84, football became fashionable and PSG spent heavily on top stars, Luis Fernandez, Kees Kist and Osvaldo Ardiles helping the club to cup wins and a first league title in 1986.

Megastore Paris Saint-Germain/Peterjon Cresswell

PSG enjoyed another revival in the 1990s when backed by TV giants Canal+. With David Ginola the star, PSG won the cup and the league title in consecutive seasons. Although the pin-up boy left for Newcastle, the club progressed under Luis Fernandez as coach to win a European trophy, the Cup-Winners’ Cup, in 1996.

Again, PSG couldn’t maintain success. Despite investing in high-class Brazilians – Rai, Leonardo, Ronaldinho – the Parisian club were unable to reconcile boardroom differences, cope with the pressure of expectation or deal with unruly fans.

Another cup win in 2010 only served to show how far they were behind the likes of Lyon, Bordeaux and Marseille in the league. Then came Nasser Al-Khelaïfi.

Immediately after the sport-savvy Qatari stepped in to buy the club, bringing in Leonardo as director of football, and Carlo Ancelotti as coach, and laying out €100 million-plus on new players, nothing much happened. PSG still failed to win the title in 2012.

Parc des Princes/Peterjon Cresswell

Another €100 million-plus was spent in the summer of 2012 and brought Zlatan Ibrahimović and Thiago Silva from Milan. Then came Beckham, and everything changed. On the pitch, PSG still struggled to assert the superiority the money should have guaranteed. Off it, they had gained entry to the higher echelons of the global football circus. Beckham’s retirement in May 2013 brought the house down at the Parc des Princes.

The 2013 title win, and €64 million signing of Edinson Cavani, a striker sought after by every club in the world, pushed the envelope. With Laurent Blanc in charge, and Ibrahimović settled and scoring, PSG took the title again in 2014 – though it also required the signing of Yohan Cabaye during the winter break.

In Europe, PSG came within three minutes of a Champions League semi-final, only for Demba Ba to level the aggregate and put Chelsea through. In 2015, PSG gained revenge, a late equaliser by ex-Chelsea defender David Luiz sending a Stamford Bridge cliff-hanger into extra-time and allowing the Parisians to try their luck against Barcelona. Again, PSG fell at the quarter-final stage.

Megastore Paris Saint-Germain/Peterjon Cresswell

After winning the treble two seasons running, PSG clinching the 2015-16 title in mid March with a 9-0 win at Troyes, the Qatari ownership had had enough and dismissed manager Laurent Blanc. Domestic dominance but European failure persuaded the club to take on Europa League winning coach Unai Emery. 

After a poor start to 2016-17, Emery’s PSG spent the rest of the season chasing a young, rampant Monaco. Winning both cups must be seen as poor compensation. Worse, a 4-0 drubbing of Barcelona in Paris was overturned by a bizarre 6-1 defeat at the Nou Camp, ending PSG’s European hopes.

The club’s financial clout was never better illustrated in the run-up to 2017-18, when PSG signed Neymar for €222 million and Kylian Mbappé for a potential €180 million, both way, way beyond the previous most expensive transfer in football history. The moves highlighted the extent of the Qatar backing – PSG were essentially a state-sponsored club.

Cantering away with La Ligue once more in 2018, PSG fell to Real Madrid in the Champions League despite going 1-0 up at the Bernabéu. The same could be said of 2018-19, when a 14-game winning streak in the league could be set against a  stoppage-time defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in the Champions League, and draws with Napoli.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Home of PSG and before that the French national team, the Parc des Princes in south-west Paris near the Bois de Boulogne started life as a velodrome. In fact, it was used as the finish line of the Tour de France until 1967. A venue for the 1900 Olympics but not the 1924 Games, the Parc later fell victim to the building of the city’s ring road, the Périphérique.

Rebuilt in 1972, shortly afterwards it became home to PSG, the French national side and, briefly, a revived Racing Club. Only PSG remain, though the Parc did host five games for the 1998 World Cup finals when the Stade de France replaced it as the national stadium. With a capacity of 49,000, the Parc has enjoyed considerable improvement since the recent investment in PSG.

Parc des Princes/Peterjon Cresswell

Renovated for Euro 2016, the Parc is being expanded for the 2024 Olympics, a long-term project that means certain sections and features will be closed to the public at certain times – there are currently no stadium tours, for example.

The ground is divided into a lower red section and upper blue. The hardest home fans, the Kop, occupy the lower Boulogne end nearest Porte de St-Cloud metro. Opposite, the Auteuil end is also PSG. The best seats are found in the Présidentielle Francis Borelli nearest to rue du Commandant Guilbaud.

Away fans occupy the corner between Auteuil and the Présidentielle, accessed from rue Claude Ferrère. Neutrals may be best placed in the Tribune Paris along the eastern sideline nearest the metro.

getting there

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

On métro line 9Porte de Saint-Cloud station is a short walk from the Parc. As you walk up avenue des Parc des Princes, the Tribune Paris is to your left. Line 9 runs through key stations such as Franklin D Roosevelt and Trocadéro near the Eiffel Tower.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

There are no ticket sales at the ground. Tickets for PSG league games are sold online several weeks in advance. European matches are usually, but not exclusively, sold as packages. 

Seats at either end start around €35, with the price around the ground averaging at €40-€50. Prime spots can be astronomical, €100 or way more.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The Megastore Paris Saint-Germain (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm and match days) is on the corner of rue Claude-Farrère and rue du Commandant-Guilbaud, facing the main reception. There’s another outlet right on the Champs-Elysées (No.27; Mon-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-9pm), and branches on the second floor of the Galeries Lafayette (40 boulevard Haussmann; Mon-Wed, Fri-Sat 9.30am-8pm, Thur 9.30am-9pm), Bercy Village (daily 11am-8pm) and Paris Charles-de-Gaulle Airport, Roissy 2C, by C87-88 (daily 8am-11.30pm). There’s also a match-day kiosk on the south, métro station side of the ground.

Home shirts for 2018-19 are classic navy blue with a central red stripe, away kit white, third kit black. Umbrellas, cufflinks and slippers show off PSG’s Eiffel Tower logo while the ‘Ici, C’Est Paris duvets with an image of the Parc des Princes on match night is un must. Note that the main store is divided between PSG’s football, basketball and handball teams.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

The classic PSG bar has always been Aux Trois Obus (120 rue Michel-Ange), right by Porte de St-Cloud metro station. Although now gentrified in retro orange and brown, with arty images of sporting action, this classic Parisian café still features its signature back mirror of the Parc des Princes. 

Further round the roundabout, the Indiana serves burgers and Belgian beers on draught, with pavement tables to watch Paris go by. Nearby upscale les princes is part-bar, part-restaurant, attracting a discerning clientele.

Further down ave du Parc des Princes, towards the rugby-oriented Stade Jean-Bouin, Les Deux Stades (41 ave du Général Serrail) is a timeless table-football bar, perennially the best choice for a pre-match drink. Decked out in framed football and rugby shirts, and classic black-and-white football images, Les Deux Stades still attracts local baby-foot spinning teenagers and offers a sun-catching terrace facing the Parc.

Also close to the ground, at the junction of rue de Paris, rue de la Tourelle and main route de la Reine, the Bistrot de la Reine is a classic little French corner bar, with set lunches, seats outside and sport on a large TV. Oh, and Warsteiner on draught and affordable sandwiches.